Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Paul R. Goldin


The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the life of Han women on the basis of excavated materials through four themes, namely, convict-labor, motherhood, sexual partners, and the afterlife. The sources include the Shuihudi, Zhangjiashan, and Mawangdui manuscripts along with visual representations and tomb artefacts. I argue that women were always the subject of concern either by the state or their partners. Female criminals constituted a crucial part in the government’s labor force. They were expected to effectively produce offspring and raise the future population with some benefits in return under the principle of filial piety. Sexual relationships between men and women were systematically regulated by the state, while individual men focused on improving health during sexual intercourse and women received pleasure as a by-product. Only in the afterlife would the rules be more relaxed, with life as depicted inside the tomb as evidence. Excavated materials have produced a more nuanced image of Han women, as they offer new insights to our understanding of gender and sexuality during the early periods, for which we previously lacked the resources to study.

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